Walking a thin line between hilarity and emotional drama, “50/50” handles the subject matter masterfully. Both sensitive and hilarious, the film showcases exceptional writing and acting talents.
Inspired by personal experiences, 50/50 is an original story about friendship, love, survival and finding humor in unlikely places. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star as best friends whose lives are changed by a cancer diagnosis. With Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston. (Synopsis by SummitPictures)
The best writing usually comes from a place with which the writer is familiar. In this case, Will Reiser pens a loose ode to his own battle with cancer and his interactions with friend Seth Rogen. If this sounds like familiar territory for Rogen, you’ve seen it before in “Funny People.” However, where “Funny People” was not actually all that funny, “50/50” delivers both comedy and insight.
That is not to say that “50/50” represents Rogen’s best work. He continually plays the same character (himself), slinging the same jokes (“something-something-let’s get high!”). It’s funny at times, and in this film he is supposed to be playing himself, but the act is getting a little stale. His performance improves towards the end of the film, when his character appears to have more dimensions than Rogen portrays.
The real star of the show is Gordon-Levitt, playing Adam, who turns in another powerhouse performance. Who would have thought the kid from “3rd Rock from the Sun” would bust out jaw-dropping performances 10 years later? He masterfully handles both the emotionally taxing scenes and some of the funniest lines. The best moment in the film comes as he is wheeled into surgery and his defenses completely drop away.
The supporting characters, especially Anna Kendrick, all turn in strong performances. Kendrick plays the role of Gordon-Levitt’s not-quite-graduated psychologist during treatment. Rogen and her character play similar roles: both are lost as to how to handle the complicated emotions of their ill friend. What is refreshing is how the two characters play off each other as counterpoints for most of the film, only to resolve during the final few scenes as Adam undergoes surgery.
With honest writing and a strong cast, there is a lot to like. “50/50” is not an easy film to watch, but considering the subject, it delivers without becoming too depressing and maintains a positive outlook without becoming puppies and sunshine. The writing speaks directly to the audience while allowing them to work through the emotions with the characters—a brilliant touch.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. To prep you for the movie’s morbid humor, here is an example terrible joke: How many cancer patients does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer, just one, but it takes a support group to cheer him on, and there’s a lot of grieving afterwards. Waka waka waka!
THREE AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed by Jonathan Levine. Written by Will Reiser.
Rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use.
Runtime: 1 hour and 39 minutes